What to take with you when you are about to spend a good deal of time with all of your belongings on your back?
All that is mine I carry with me – this old adage is seldom more applicable to someone other than a backpacker. If you are planning to engage in a backpacing adventure, it is good to resist the temptation to truly take everything you own, as a cumbersome and heavy bag can only imit you. Seasoned backpackers give the following advice: lay everything out that you really want to take, halve it and take twice as much money. Your luggage should be light, practical (or multipractical, even) and as compact as possible. There is no place for the logic of ˝you never know what might come in handy˝ in backpacking. After all, you can buy most of the things you need on the way, and often at much lower prices.
The most important item to bring with you is, naturally, a backpack. It should be practical, durable, equipped with many pockets and not over 35 to 55 litres in size.Do not forget to take a combination padlock to protect your things, and also pack a smaller messenger bag for during the day.
Although you may be reluctant to do so, the amount of clothing you take ought to be kept to a minimum. It is best to take twoT-shirts and two pairs of trousers (a long cotton skirt is also a good option for women), and only one pair of shoes –those on your feet. Shoes take up a lot of room, thus be practical and opt for a pair of comfortable sandals. Naturally, if planning to venture into colder regions, one should also consider closed shoes and warm clothing. However, it is a well-known fact that most backpackers travel during the summer months and/or travel to developing African or Asian coutries, thus a warm jumper for chilly mornings and evenings will do just fine. As you will be spending a lot of time in the same clothes, make sure that they comfortable and of high quality and that they can be worn for many occasions – polo shirts are a popular option among backpackers.
Your cosmetics and medicine supply also ought to be limited to only the most necessary things – travel sets of shampoos, hair conditioners etc. are a good choice, and it is also useful to bring olive oil soap as it can be used for almost anything – from hair and skin to clothes. As for drugs, take only those that you feel you might need in emergency until you’re able to reach the nearest pharmacy/doctor. Don’t forget about personal hygiene items such as plasters, a nail-clipper, extra toilet paper, wet wipes (great for keeping clean in a hurry) and hand sanitiser.
Think twice before taking a sleeping bag – it takes up a lot of room in a backpack, but you will rarely need it, particularly if you are travelling to warmer regions. Also reconsider brining valuable items, keepsakes and expensive electronic equipment as petty theft is a significant problem in many countries. If you do feel that you cannot go without your favourite gadget, it is a wise choice to invest in travel insurance. A laptop can come in handy in developed countries where free wi-fi internet is readily available, but a phone with an Internet connection is usually a more compact and better solution.
Don’t burden yourself with buying countless travel guides for each country as they take up a lot of room – plus, you can also buy them along the way. Rather take two or three good books to while away the hours during long trips, and perhaps a game or two, e.g. a deck of cards.
To end with, here are a few more items that could prove to be useful on a backpacking journey: a small compact umbrella, ear plugs, a notebook and pen, a travel washing line (for drying clothes and underwear during the night), plastic utensils, garbage bags (so you can separate your dirty clothes from the clean) and a practical water bottle.